United States District Court, Western District of Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
HON. BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Ronica Ellen Young (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and a period of disability under Titles II and XVI of the Act.
The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 6. Pursuant to this authority, the Court issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a final judgment in this matter.
On June 30, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed her disability applications. (Tr. 32). In these applications, Plaintiff alleges being disabled due to a stroke, brain damage, and post-traumatic stress disorder. (Tr. 197). Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of March 12, 2007. (Tr. 32). Plaintiff’s disability applications were denied initially and again upon reconsideration. (Tr. 118-121).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her applications. (Tr. 136). This hearing request was granted, and an administrative hearing was held on August 22, 2012 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. (Tr. 71-117). At this hearing, Plaintiff was present and was represented by Frank Booth. Id. Plaintiff and Vocational Expert (“VE”) John Massey testified at this hearing. Id. On the date of the hearing, Plaintiff testified she was thirty-six (36) years old, which is defined as a “younger person” under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c) (2008) (DIB) and 20 C.F.R. § 416.963(c) (2008) (SSI). (Tr. 23). As for her education, Plaintiff testified she stopped school in the twelfth grade of high school, but she did obtain her GED. (Tr. 91).
On November 30, 2012, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision. (Tr. 29-44). In this decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2009. (Tr. 34, Finding 1). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity (“SGA”) since at least May 12, 2007 (her alleged onset date). (Tr. 34, Finding 2). The ALJ determined Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: stroke, migraine headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and affective disorder. (Tr. 34-35, Finding 3). The ALJ also determined, however, that Plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the Listings of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 35-37, Finding 4).
In this decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 37-43, Finding 5). First, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff’s subjective complaints and found her claimed limitations were not entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform the following:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except the claimant must avoid even moderate exposure to hazards (including dangerous moving machinery, unprotected heights, and driving a car); and the claimant is able to perform work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, the complexity of tasks is learned and performed by rote, with few variables, and little judgment required, and where the supervision required is simple, direct, and concrete.
The ALJ then evaluated Plaintiff’s Past Relevant Work (“PRW”). (Tr. 43-44, Finding 6). The VE testified at the administrative hearing regarding this issue. Id. Based upon that testimony, the ALJ found Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW as a mail clerk (light, unskilled). Id. Because Plaintiff retained the capacity to perform her PRW, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from May 12, 2007 (alleged onset date) through November 30, 2012 (ALJ’s decision date). (Tr. 44, Finding 7).
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested the review of the Appeals Council. (Tr. 27). On June 20, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review. (Tr. 1-3). On August 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this matter. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the jurisdiction of this Court on September 3, 2014. ECF No. 6. Both Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 9-10. This case is now ready for decision.
2. Applicable Law:
In reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2010); Ramirez v. Barnhart, 292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the Commissioner’s decision. See Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is substantial evidence in the record that supports the Commissioner’s decision, the Court may not reverse it simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. See Haley v. Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after reviewing the record, it ...